Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
Global

Wine-labelling dispute uncorks serious problem with Canada-Israel trade deal

By Peter Larson      

What should the government do when a bilateral trade pact violates other aspects of Canadian policy or existing international commitments?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently demanded that Ontario liquor stores stop selling wines made in the West Bank and labelled 'Product of Israel,' but reversed the decision less than 24 hours later. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

Six months ago, David Kattenburg, a Jewish son of Holocaust survivors who opposes Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank, launched a complaint against the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for selling wines made in the occupied Palestinian territories as a “Product of Israel.”

That complaint eventually led to a notice sent to the LCBO by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) demanding the discontinuation of the sales of the mislabelled products. The food inspection agency based itself on established Canadian policy noting that “The government of Canada does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967….Wine products from those regions which are labelled as ‘Product of Israel’ are not acceptable.”

B’nai Brith Canada and other Israel lobby organizations were shocked. This step by the CFIA would put Canada in line with the European Union and other jurisdictions that already demand that West Bank products be specifically labelled as such. B’nai Brith protested that Canada’s free trade agreement with Israel from 1997 allows products from the occupied territories to be labelled “Product of Israel,” notwithstanding existing Canadian official policy that the West Bank is not part of Israel.

Faced with this legal argument, within 24 hours the inspection agency reversed its decision. “In our assessment, we did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA),” said a CFIA statement.

However, the CFIA’s flip-flop raises a difficult legal issue for the Canadian government about what to do when a bilateral trade agreement violates other aspects of Canadian policy or existing international commitments. Can a simple commercial agreement override those policies?

Canadian policy, cited by the CFIA and as shown on the Global Affairs Canada website, does not recognize permanent Israeli control over the occupied Palestinian territories.

Furthermore, Canada has signed on to both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Statute of Rome, which consider the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories to be illegal. In fact, Canada has incorporated the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Statute of Rome into Canadian domestic law. This means that by Canada’s own laws the Israeli settlements are illegal and a war crime. Does this mean that by selling any West Bank wine, however labelled, the LCBO is profiting from the proceeds of crime?

In addition to these immediate legal issues, the West Bank wine controversy foreshadows a looming international political challenge for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has already announced he wants Canada to be elected to the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term starting in 2021.

In a decision six months ago (UNSC resolution 2334) the UN Security Council called on all UN members to “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” If Canada continues to recognize West Bank products as “Made in Israel,” Canada will be in direct violation of this resolution. Can Canada continue to ignore “binding” decisions of the UN Security Council and still reasonably hope to be elected to that prestigious body?

The embarrassing West Bank wine imbroglio, which B’nai Brith, the CFIA, and the Canadian government would like to present as a simple labelling mistake, has revealed a serious problem with the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement. It violates both our international agreements and our domestic laws, and could even hinder our hopes of being elected to the Security Council. Perhaps it is time to take a new look at the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement itself.

Peter Larson is chair of the Canada Talks Israel/Palestine Committee.

The Hill Times

Politics This Morning

Get the latest news from The Hill Times

Politics This Morning


Your email has been added. An email has been sent to your address, please click the link inside of it to confirm your subscription.

‘Beirut is bleeding’: Lebanese-Canadian MPs express horror, disbelief in wake of massive explosion

News|By Mike Lapointe
'I’m sure with the will of the Lebanese and their friends from all over the world, Beirut will shine again,' says Liberal MP Fayçal El-Khoury.

Introduction of remote voting in the House could come without unanimous support

House leaders continue to hold talks over the summer, but whether an agreement can be struck to get Conservatives on side with a recent call to allow remote voting in ‘exceptional circumstances’ remains to be seen.

‘No gotcha moments’: Trudeau’s gambit reflects lessons learned from past ethical entanglements

News|By Beatrice Paez
Though late and largely unconvincing, the PM's testimony helps ensure the government’s points, rather than mere speculation, are litigated in the public square instead, says Garry Keller of StrategyCorp.

Deepening COVID-19 impact raises the stakes for Canada’s future choices

Opinion|By Les Whittington
As the epidemic reshapes everything, it’s time for the country to put aside traditional convictions and economic frameworks and try to pull together to build a future better suited to a changing, endangered world.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s new premier is one to watch

Opinion|By Tim Powers
Furey’s greatest challenge will not be enthusiasm or passion, but rather the provincial political system that has rarely rewarded disruption and provides benefits for ward keepers who do not shake things up.

Lewis courts dairy farmers, Sloan attacks WHO as Conservative leadership underdogs burn through cash in late advertising push

Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan spent roughly $20,000 in a week on a last-minute bid to shore up support, while Erin O'Toole's campaign slowed its online ad spending to a trickle.

‘There has never been anything like this before’: experts split on GG’s fate as PCO launches Rideau Hall workplace probe over harassment, bullying claims

‘It’s got to the point, I think, with this particular story, that the governor general should resign,’ says Emmett Macfarlane, professor of constitutional law at the University of Waterloo.

PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

News|By Mike Lapointe
'Building diverse and inclusive workforces is essential to the effectiveness of the security and intelligence community,' according to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians' annual report.

Trudeau should hire a ‘director of ethics and oversight’ to vet potential conflicts and break ‘serial pattern’ of ethics lapses, say pollsters

News|By Abbas Rana
Justin Trudeau's Liberals should ensure they don’t end up in anymore ethical controversies, as these scandals lead people to think that it is ‘time for change,’ says Innovative Research president Greg Lyle.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.